Richmond’s J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School, named after a Confederate general, decided on using the name of the nation’s first Black president as their break from hateful history’s grip.
The top two choices voted by students at the school, which has a 95 percent Black student body, were Barack Obama and the neighborhood name, Northside. The Richmond Public School board made the final decision selecting Obama.
Superintendent Jason Kamras told the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “It’s incredibly powerful that in the capital of the Confederacy, where we had a school named for an individual who fought to maintain slavery, that now we’re renaming that school after the first Black president. A lot of our kids, and our kids at J.E.B. Stuart, see themselves in Barack Obama.”
Stuart, a trusted general in Robert E. Lee’s army, had statues, towns, tanks and schools in Virginia and Florida named after him. Last year, the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia voted to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to Justice High School. Monuments, statues, parks, property and schools also bare Lee’s name.
The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that 100 public schools in the U.S. are named for Confederate leaders, with most of them clustered in the South. And seven states have laws protecting confederate monuments: Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
After the deadly Charlottesville rally last year, many school boards and groups are looking to disassociate from any hate and divisiveness from racist history.
United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), which has been responsible for erecting more than 700 monuments and other memorials to the Confederacy across the South, denounced the promotion of racial divisiveness or white supremacy after Charlottesville. They still preserve historical monuments, however.
In Petersburg, Va., several schools will be renamed in July, discarding Confederate names A.P. Hill, Robert E Lee and J.E.B. Stuart. Arlington’s School board voted 5-0 to change Washington-Lee High School’s name earlier this month.
Malcolm Douglas, a new alum of that school said in a speech during that board meeting: “To defend the name in defense of Lee himself is impermissibleWe equate Lee and Washington, making the Confederacy seem like an noble struggle, not a campaign to perpetuate slavery.”